The Royal Fern, from the Harper's
—A legend has been handed down from the time of the
Danish invasions of Britain, explanatory of the generic name of
Osmunda—an island, covered with large specimens of this fern, figuring
prominently in the story. Osmund, the ferryman of Loch Tyne, had a
beautiful child, who was the pride of his life and the joy of his heart.
In those days, when the merciless Danes were making their terrible
descents upon the coasts of Great Britain, slaughtering the peaceful
inhabitants, and pillaging wherever they went, no man could say how long
he would be free from molestation and outrage. But Osmund, throughout
the troublous times, had lived quietly in his country home with his wife
and beautiful daughter.
The peaceful calm of his life was, however, destined to be broken. One
evening the ferryman was sitting, with his wife and child, on the margin
of the lake, after his day's work. The setting sun was tingeing with
roseate glory the fleecy banks of cloud, piled up against the horizon,
silvering the surface of the rippling lake, and adding a richer hue to
the golden locks of Osmund's darling child. Suddenly the sound of
hurrying footsteps startled the quiet group. Men, women, and children
came hastening from the neighboring village, and breathlessly, as they
passed, they told the ferryman that the terrible Danes were coming.
Quick as thought Osmund sprang to his feet, seized his wife and child,
and hurried them into his ferry-boat. Away he rowed with them pulling
for very life—in the direction of a small island in the loch, densely
covered with the tall and stately fronds of the royal fern. He quickly
hid his precious charges amongst the clustering fronds, and then rowed
rapidly back to his ferry place. He had rightly divined that the Danes
needed his assistance, and would not hurt him.
For many hours of the ensuing night he worked with might and main to
carry the fierce invaders across the ferry. When they had all
disappeared on the opposite bank, Osmund returned to his trembling wife
and child, and brought them safely back to his cottage. In
commemoration, it is said, of this event, the fair daughter of Osmund
gave the great island fern her father's name. Those who care not to
accept this fanciful origin of the name Osmunda, will perhaps incline to
another suggestion which has been made, that the generic name had been
derived from an old Saxon word signifying strength, the specific name
indicating its royal or stately habit of growth.